Posts

Coding Series: Part 3 – Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking

Conversion tracking is important, but if you are selling multiple products at multiple price points to customers who are purchasing multiple units, it is much more tangible to track actual revenue generated from these purchases in order to determine return on advertising spend (ROAS). Ecommerce data is tracked through Google Analytics. The reporting functionality allowed with Ecommerce Tracking provides critical information into the behavior of your website visitors and is the only way to measure the sales cycle, including how many visits or days it takes for a purchase to take place.

Benefits: Ecommerce Tracking

Ecommerce reporting in Google Analytics will provide insight into which traffic sources are resulting in purchases, such as paid search or organic traffic, as well as the average value of a purchase, ecommerce conversion rate, purchases by day, revenue by geographic region, and the value of each website visit. This data can help you determine what marketing efforts are resulting in the most revenue for your business, which keywords convert best and are most cost effective, and who your target customer really is.

How It Works: Ecommerce Tracking

Ecommerce tracking works similarly to page view tracking in that data is sent to a Google Analytics server via a JavaScript Code. When a visitor submits a transaction to your server, the data is then processed. Once the transaction is processed, your server prepares a receipt to send back to the visitor. With the code correctly installed, the server will receive and process the transaction data. As the receipt is being prepared, some of the transaction data is extracted from the server and submitted to Google Analytics by way of the Google Analytics JavaScript. Simultaneously, a receipt is sent to the visitor’s browser while the ecommerce data is sent to Google Analytics. Google Analytics tracks both transaction data (transaction ID, purchase total, tax, shipping, etc.) and item data (SKU, product name, unit price, quantity).

Code Implementation: Ecommerce Tracking

There are two necessary steps in order to start tracking ecommerce transactions.

  1. Enable ecommerce reporting for your website's profile in your reports.
  1. Configure your shopping cart's receipt page to send ecommerce data to Google Analytics.

The first step is to simply enable the ecommerce reports within Google Analytics. In the profile settings of Google Analytics, you can edit the website information to specify that you have an ecommerce site, which activates the reports. There are other settings to consider if you have an international ecommerce site.

Double check that the Google Analytics code is correctly installed on your receipt page. Without this, you will not be able to track transactions because the ecommerce code is placed right within the Google Analytics JavaScript code. The JavaScript can be installed anywhere on the receipt page as long as it’s placed after the main Google Analytics page tag.

  • Sample Ecommerce Tracking Code

<script type="text/javascript">
pageTracker._addTrans(
      "order-id", // required
      "affiliate or store name",
      "total",
      "tax",
      "shipping",
      "city",
      "state",
      "country"
);

pageTracker._addItem(
      "order-id", // required
      "SKU",
      "product name",
      "product category",
      "unit price",  // required
      "quantity"  //required
);

pageTracker._trackTrans();
</script>

Technical Details: Ecommerce Tracking

If you take a close look at this code, you will see that there are three parts to the JavaScript. There are three distinct methods or actions for each section.

  • _addTrans() creates and stores all of the information about the transaction.
  • The _addItem() method adds an item to the transaction. You will need an _addItem() section for each product or SKU in the transaction. The order ID must match the same order ID in the -addTrans() method; otherwise, Google Analytics can’t tie the item to a transaction.
  • _trackTrans() method sends the data to Google Analytics by requesting the _utm.gif file once for the transaction and another time for each item in the transaction.

Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking provides reports on total revenue, conversion rate, average order value, product overview, product SKUs, categories, transactions, visits to purchase, and time to purchase. One of the main benefits to online marketing is being able to track all of your results, and with Ecommerce Tracking, you can tie sales revenue to performance and determine the return on investment for your marketing efforts. To find out more visit: http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/tracking/gaTrackingEcommerce.html. If you have any other questions about Google Analytics Ecommerce Tracking or how to install the code, please feel free to follow up with your Leverage Marketing account manager.

Google Reading Level

In my search to find out something new on Google today I stumbled upon Reading Level. Reading Level is an interesting feature that Google debuted in late 2010.

Reading Level is a way for a searcher to filter search results to a specific reading level. Google classifies the sites on Google.com “based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a statistical model. With this model, we can compare the words on any webpage with the words in the model to classify reading levels. We also use data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are advanced.”

Reading a bit more on the subject it seems that website builders/SEO’s are unable to update Google on what level of content the website is (beginner, intermediate or advanced).

Next I did the following ten searches on Google:

  1. Fly fishing
  2. Chemistry (2)
  3. Oxygen bleach (1)
  4. dress for success
  5. automobile maintenance schedule
  6. Wolong China Panda Preserve
  7. Cement Producers Association
  8. best practices for teaching (1)
  9. quotes about conformity (5)
  10. headphones

The number behind the query is the level that I found the first advanced search result in – no number indicates an advanced reading level did not appear on page one of my search query. As you can see, for the most part (90%) the uppermost ranking of SERPS appear to be reserved for beginner or intermediate users.

I wanted to be sure that I gave Google enough Advanced Results to choose from so I next did a search for process identification and mapping.

Although 93% of the results are identified as Advanced – Google chooses to show an intermediate reading level result for the first 3 SERPS.

What do you think? Do you think reading level has anything to do with SERP rankings? Do you think that Google chooses a lower reading level to be more relevant to what Google may believe most searchers are looking for or is it easier to optimize content for pages with beginner or intermediate level results?   We will continue to look into this phenomenon and keep you updated.

Coding Series: Part I – How To Install Google Analytics

This is the first post in what will likely be a five-part instructional series on valuable codes that can easily be installed, and if done so correctly, Google Analytics will provide substantial insight into your website traffic and your return on advertising dollars.

Google Analytics is one of Google’s free tools that allows advertisers to customize over 80 reports to track all activity on their website. Advertisers can gain key insights into what visitors do and how those actions contribute to the success of their business through these customizable reports focused on visitors, traffic sources, content, goals, and ecommerce.

Code Implementation: Google Analytics

Signing up for Google Analytics is simple and free, with four easy steps to complete before accessing a world of analytics. Go to https://www.google.com/analytics/provision/signup to get started. Once the account is set up, you can find your personal code snippet within the Profile Settings of your Google Analytics account.

To access your tracking code from Google Analytics:

  1. Log in at http://www.google.com/analytics.
  2. Select the profile from the accounts Overview page.
  3. From that profile’s Actions column, click ‘Edit.’
  4. At the top right of the ‘Main Website Profile Information’ box, click ‘Check Status.’
  5. The tracking code can be copied and pasted from the text box in the Instructions for Adding Tracking section.

Code snippet sample:

<script>
var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl/.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“”));
</script>
<script>
try{
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-xxxxxx-x”);
pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}
</script>

For basic installation, copy and paste the code segment into the bottom of your content, immediately before the </body> tag of each page you are planning to track. You will need to update the “xxxx-x” in the sample above with your own Google Analytics account number.

Gauging Performance: Google AdWords with Google Analytics

In Adwords, a user’s action is labeled a “conversion,” whereas the same activity in Analytics is listed as a “goal.” In order for Google Analytics to calculate goal conversion metrics, you must create one or more goals.

Before setting up a goal, make sure you have the following requirements.

  • Name the goal: Specify a name that you will recognize when viewing the goals within your reports. Examples of names you might use include ’email sign-up’ or ‘article ABC download.’
  • Define the funnel: While funnels are optional, defining one can help you map where visitors drop off during the path to completing a goal.
  • The value of the goal: Google Analytics uses an assigned goal value to calculate ROI, Average Score, and other metrics.

Setting up goals:

  1. Select the account that you’ll be creating goals for from the Overview page of Google Analytics.
  2. Find the profile for which you will be creating goals, and click ‘Edit’ under the ‘Actions’ column.
  3. Under the ‘Goals’ section, select one of the four sets to create the goal (each set contains up to five goals) and click ‘Add goal.’
  4. Enter the goal’s name so that you can quickly recognize it when viewing reports.
  5. Turn the goal ‘On’ or ‘Off.’
  6. Select the goal’s position. The pull-down menu allows you to select a goal’s position in a set so that you can control the order in which it appears from the ‘Goals’ tab in your reports.
  7. Decide which one of the three types of goals you want. This can be URL Destination, Time on Site, or Pages/Visit.
  8. Once you select the radio button for the goal type, a field for ‘Goal Details’ should appear.

Here’s a great example from Google on how to set the value of a goal:

“The value of the goal: Google Analytics uses an assigned goal value to calculate ROI, Average Score, and other metrics. A good way to value a goal is to evaluate how often the visitors who reach the goal become customers. If, for example, your sales team can close 10% of people who request to be contacted, and your average transaction is $500, you might assign $50 (i.e. 10% of $500) to your “Contact Me” goal. In contrast, if only 1% of mailing list signups result in a sale, you might only assign $5 to your “email sign-up” goal.”

Defining funnels:

After entering goal information, define a funnel if you’ve selected a ‘URL Destination’ goal type:

  1. Click ‘Yes, create a funnel for this goal.’
  2. Enter the ‘URL’ of the first page of your conversion funnel. This page should be one that is common to all users working their way towards your goal.
  3. Enter a ‘Name’ for this step.
  4. If this step is a ‘Required step’ in the conversion process, select the checkbox to the right of the step. If this checkbox is selected, users reaching your goal page without traveling through this funnel page will not be counted as conversions.
  5. Continue entering goal steps until your funnel has been completely defined. You may enter up to 10 funnel steps or as few as a single step.
  6. Click ‘Save Changes’ to create this goal and funnel.

Linking your AdWords account to Google Analytics will allow you to take advantage of extensive reporting options. It will also enable you to spot further ad opportunities by viewing AdWords conversions alongside Analytics goal/transactions. You can obtain detailed tracking information by creating customized statistics that will allow you to calculate return on investment.

To link:

  1. Add your AdWords username to your Analytics account as an Account Admin.
  2. In AdWords, select Reporting tab and choose ‘Google Analytics.’
  3. Select ‘I already have a Google Analytics account.’
  4. From the Existing Google Analytics Account drop-down menu, select the name of the Analytics account.
  5. Then, select ‘Link Accounts.’

Google Analytics is a smart web analytics solution that enables you to analyze website performance, gauge the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, and create better-performing advertisements. To find out more visit: http://www.google.com/analytics/. If you have any other questions about the functionality of Google Analytics or how to install the code, please feel free to contact us or follow up with your Leverage Marketing account manager.

What’s in a Report?

Working with an Agency – Reporting Expectations

In a recently conducted survey, we noted that 25% of the clients that we work with have never worked with an agency before. While working with an online agency can be exciting, you may get more out of the experience if you know what to expect and what you want out of the relationship.

There are many posts available if you do a quick Google search on what to expect work-wise, but what should you expect in terms of reporting? Reports are often one of the only ways that many businesses know what is working within their Pay Per Click account.

Frequency

Our agency used to report on a weekly basis to our clients. We found that this period of time was too brief, and often small daily fluctuations would show as spikes or decreases in overall weekly performance for our clients’ accounts. We have now found that providing our clients reporting every fifteen to thirty days is more actionable for our clients businesses. We still perform our more frequent internal reporting to make needed changes and modifications, but we do find that our mid-month and end- of month reports are a win-win for both our client and our agency.

Content

In February 2011, Google made updates to what type of information certain agencies should provide to clients. Google’s newly updated policies state that:

Third parties should at minimum provide advertisers with monthly data on Adwords costs, clicks and impressions at the account level.

While we agree that this is a nice start, there are many other metrics that you should receive in the periodic updates that your search team provides.

Cost/Conversion (Sometimes notated as CPC or CPA) – The price paid for each new conversion or acquisition. Conversions can be defined by the client as a sale, lead generated or visit to a particular page on a site. We suggest that instead of seeing a total lump sum for total CPA across your entire site, that instead you ask your search provider to provide this information on a product level that is more manageable. This is needed because the CPA that your business is willing to spend to acquire one overnight visitor at your hotel versus a convention may differ.

Later this week we will look at additional content that should be included within your reports and also the level of transparency you should receive from your agency.

Someone Just Updated your Local Listing and you Don’t Even Know About it!

I recently came upon a brilliant article, and it brought up some fears of how some business owners are leaving themselves ‘open’ for attacks to their online local listing data.

This great article initially caught my attention as it primarily discusses business listings data, which is admittedly a subset of all location information for business (i.e. location and contact information).

A few years back a concept was proposed as to whether there could be a Wikipedia of Yellow Pages and if it could be successful.  Greg Sterling in 2006 said:

“…until recently Wikipedia seemed a long shot and almost preposterous notion itself. And if the directory follows in the footsteps of Wikipedia it will become a highly successful (and visible) way for local businesses to be found. It could also be radically disruptive if successful.”

 

Greg noted that one such concept, Yellowikis, failed, although Brownbook and Bizwiki have continued with similar ideas.  To date these have not been successful in attracting consumer use, and properly structuring data in a way that other developers can use.

 

Now in 2010 the idea appears to be gaining ground.  More key players are interested in this Wiki of places and organizations are already working on a solution!

 

But the question stands… With this concept of Wiki places information will have to be sort of a open source.  So who will be in charge of centralizing this data?

Many people including myself, are in favor of data aggregation companies.  I like the fact we work with many local search data aggregators because we can easily update our clients local listing data and with frequent submissions of this data to over 100 local search sites, I never have to worry about who may be out there updating my local listings with out my knowledge.

Improve Your Site’s Checkout Process

It can be an expensive and time consuming process to lead prospective customers to your website, so I am in agreement with Google that making your website work well should be one of your main objectives to help people buy your products.

Ads that customers click on should have products or features displayed clearly on the landing page.  It should not take the customer 3 clicks to figure out that indeed you are offering free shipping for the next 24 hours for all online orders.

  • Link ads to the right page,
  • Mirror your ad title, and
  • Ensure selling points are visible.

Make sure that if a customer clicks into your website that they can clearly navigate through your site.  Make it easy for your customer to find what they are looking for and also to go back should they have the need.

  • Make product/service categories visible,
  • Use easy-to-understand terms, and
  • Highlight where to go next.

This is a good use of Google Analytics, to ensure that you can see where customers are falling off of the buying process.

A customer should only have to go to their wallet to get their credit card number to make a purchase on your website.  If your site requires a user enter a password or other information that may not be readily available – you may lose the opportunity to make the sell.

  • Don’t ask for unnecessary details,
  • Show a status bar throughout the check out process.
  • Expedite the process, and
  • Avoid distractions such as in shopping cart advertising.

Google also lists some common questions that customers want answered before they place an order on your site.  Make sure you have answered them.

  1. Can I return this item within x amount of days?
  2. Can I review my order before I confirm the purchase?
  3. Can I easily contact support or customer service if something goes wrong?
  4. If I hit the next button, will I be billed?
  5. If I hit the next button, will I be able to make a revision still?
  6. What is the total price with shipping to my address?
  7. How many days before I get my item delivered?
  8. Is this site secure, can I trust you with my credit card details?
  9. What payment types other than credit card do you accept?
  10. VERY important for travel/hotel sites – If I’m only making a booking, how much is due now and how much is due later?

Google should definitely be applauded for making the great data available above for all to view, but just like with any new venture it is still a good idea to have marketing guru’s on your side to ensure that the tips and tactics Google shares above and at make your website work – are applicable to your businesses unique situation.

How Google’s Real-Time Web and Personalized Search is Re-Shaping the Search Landscape

The internet is abuzz with news of Google’s real-time Web and personalized search queries and the potential implications for users and search marketers vary across the board. With live updates from Facebook, Twitter and Myspace appearing in the search results, marketers may need to add a stronger emphasis on social media to their rosters in the coming months.

In the initial rollout, the feeds show in a real-time scroll box above and below the fold. While these live updates don’t currently use a large amount of retail space, the ubiquitous nature of social media and the influence these feeds posses may urge retailers, especially business to consumer, to implement overarching and in-depth social media pushes. As the updates appear on the first page, this change could also push weaker sites to the second and third pages of search results indicating businesses may make a heavier push to PPC marketing to boost first-page present.

As the rollout for the real time search was only recently launched, only keywords such as Taylor Swift and Tiger Woods prompt the real time search.  Keywords such as Oprah and Obama SERP still do not contain the scroll box.  This demonstrates that although having the social media presence on the result page, that the real effects will not be seen until the update is fully integrated.  In the future if this real-time scroll bar does take up more real-estate, this will make the top organic listing highly competitive and a SEO campaign almost crucial for all online marketers.  It also seems that a social media marketing campaign is needed for online campaigns as well as top search results will show tweets from Twitter.  It almost seems that the roll out of this product creates the need for a blended online marketing campaign including PPC, SEO, and SMM.

2010 Online Advertising Forecast

Here is an interesting article that I came across.  The article takes a look at the forecast for online advertising for 2010.  You can read the full article and we have also listed some high level insights below:

Video Usage:

  • Senior Analyst David Hallerman suggests that more marketers will embrace online video advertising, and that more sites will support the growth of video.

Ad Targeting and Privacy

  • With the main stream availability of consumer behavior online comes more scrutiny about privacy policies:  What this means to us is users are becoming aware of ad-blocking software or add-ons and more deletion of cookies that makes the availability of what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and where you go online a lot harder to companies to gather.
  • On the government side there is potential for more federal legislation limiting website tracking
  • Again what does that mean: in order for search engines to get ahead of this legislation there needs to be a greater deal of transparency
  • In 2010 we should start seeing websites letting users know what data is being kept about them and give them access to remove themselves
  • Ultimately publishers will need to come up with better trade-offs if they want to garner any information from an individual

Search

  • Social sites and video results is something to change in search.  You will start seeing more of these results as part of general search queries.
  • Advertising is also predicated to continue increasing as we come closer to 2010
  • 2010 spend = $11.4 billion
  • 2011 spend = $12.2 billion
  • 2012 spend = $13.6 billion
  • 2014 spend = $15.8 billion

Internet Users and Usage

  • As we move into the new year internet usage is predicated to increase as the ease of accessing the internet continues to grow with the use of laptops, smartphones, and gaming consoles.
  • It is predicated that we see the most change within the adults ages 55 and older, who are now discovering social networks.
  • Number of internet users will begin to stabilize, as penetration reaches 66% of the US population, or 205.3 million people.

 

Google Removes PageRank in Webmaster Tools

Google uses more than 200 signals, including their patented PageRank algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important and shown to a user first.  Many business owners have thus become aware of their own PageRank and some may incorrectly believe that PageRank is THE metric that must be improved when vying for higher organic listings.  In October, Google removed this PageRank from their Webmaster toolkit.

What is PageRank:

In Laymans/Googles Terms – PageRank reflected Google’s view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. PageRank also considered the importance of each page that casted a vote, as votes from some pages were considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.

Google’s newly released position on page rank is: We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.

If you are so inclined, an in-depth mathematical computation for page rank can be found online.

What are Google Webmaster Tools:

Google Webmaster Tools provides webmasters with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google. GWT allow webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites through organic search.

PageRank is still shown within Google Toolbar, so you can still view this metric. Page Rank within Google Toolbar sends the URLs of pages that opted-in searchers visit to display the importance ranking that Google assigns to a page.

This goes to show that what you see in Google Toolbar and what Google actually uses are two different things when it comes to indexing your site.

I know a guy who knows a guy who got his website ranking number one in Yahoo for “Sheep Shears Georgia”! – and it only took him a week!

And that guy is more than willing to take your money to do the same for you.  These guys are everywhere.  Some of them aren’t even guys.  Man or woman, they’ll happily promise you the world for a low flat fee – usually a couple hundred bucks.  And that’s far less than the rates Leverage Marketing charges for search engine optimization services.  And you’re free to pay them your money and test out their “guaranteed first page rankings.”  But before you do, here are some things to be very wary of (they’re scary!):

Look out for:

Reciprocal link building

This was extremely popular 5+ years ago and is one of the main reasons that sites used to have whole pages dedicated to outgoing links.  Just because it was popular (and somewhat effective) 5 years ago doesn’t mean you should do it now.  In fact, link schemes like this can throw up major red flags in the search engines and can have your site booted from the search results.

Paid directory link building

Many companies still base their “SEO” programs around this type of link building.  The basic premise here is handing over varying amounts of cash in return for a link back to your site.  In one way, this sounds like basic advertising and sounds relatively reasonable.  But dig a little deeper and evaluate the value of a link from the majority of sites that offer this deal, and you’ll find it’s rarely even close to worth it.  Many companies recommend that you give them $300 so they can submit you to Yahoo’s directory.  And you’re a yahoo if you fork it over!  This link will rarely generate traffic and won’t give your site any noticeable link value.  Add this to the fact that paid links are easily identified and devalued by search engines and you have an optimization tactic sure to disappoint.

Submission to search engines

Besides the fact that this can easily be done yourself by entering your URL in Google’s or Bing’s form, it is completely unnecessary for all but brand new sites.  Google and Yahoo are very good at finding your URLs on their own.  Ensuring that the important pages of your site can be found from a sitemap, however, is still a good idea.

Concentration on optimizing Meta keywords element

It used to be very common, and somewhat beneficial, to target specific keywords in the meta keywords element of your site as search engines used to look here to get an idea of what your site was about.  Of course this was and still is used by many people in hopes of improving their rankings.  If only it were that simple.  The value of working on this Meta Element is extremely low if at all.  Creating unique descriptions in the meta description element of your pages, however, is important – but for a completely different reason which will be a topic of another blog post.

Guaranteed rankings or guaranteed amounts of traffic

It’s hard not to be warmed over by a great sounding guarantee.  Let me guess, you want number one rankings for the highest search volume keywords that even remotely represent your offering and you want traffic by the thousands to come to your site, correct?  Well shoot, we can get that for you if you’ll just sign this twelve month contract.  Truth be told, great guarantees are hard to come by. And I have yet to see any SEO companies guarantee anything but wasted time, a lighter pocket book, and a grudge against SEO companies.  This need not be the case.  A quality SEO company will show exactly what they are working on and how it will impact your website.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  I guarantee it!

The number of companies offering the above ‘services’ is not as high as it once was.  Many consumers have wised up to many of the above mentioned careless tactics but there still are many phony companies out there.  In fact, this post was prompted by a phony SEO company whose proposal was sent on to me – it included each of the above tactics as main offerings.  I’ll leave you with one important recommendation:  When considering an SEO company to establish a relationship with, grab your outlined goals for your business and with your B.S. cap firmly on, review the offerings.  Is there anything that seems too good to be true?  Have the company you are considering explain anything that doesn’t seem possible.  And by all means, choose with your head and not based on fantasy.  Lastly, how many people are searching for sheep shears Georgia, anyways?

Page 4 of 512345